Monday, March 30, 2009

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence happens a lot. It may just be small shove or a full out assault, it's wrong.

When I worked for the District Attorney's Office in San Diego County many years ago, I recall working on cases in which domestic violence occurred. It's not often that these cases go to trial either. Why? Because often the person who has been victimized won't press charges against the person who did the abuse! Where we might think it is the natural progression to move forward to stop the abuse, surprisingly, many do not do it.

I once went to take photographs of a domestic violence victim as ordered by the Deputy DA assigned to the case. The DA investigator and I arrived at the hospital and I took all the supporting photographs needed for the case. The victim was telling the investigator about what had happened. She was beaten by her husband. It wasn't pretty.

After we were done and we were heading down in the elevator, the investigator said to me, "Thanks for taking the pictures. But you do realize it will probably never be used, don't you?" I asked why. "Well, the case most likely won't even make it to court because the victim is probably going to go back to her husband and drop the charges."

I couldn't believe it! After taking such a brutal beating, the victim would drop the charges? But it was true. It never made it to court. The investigator knew that often, the victim will go back to the abusive relationship. It's just hard to comprehend.

However, in some cases, the victim does go forward and presses charges. Some also will divorce the abuser too. To me, that makes the most sense. Don't be afraid. If you are being abused... do something about it. Don't wait until it's too late.

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Vacancy

My brother-in-law came over this morning to help me build and install a screen to fit over the attic fan opening where our furry friend the squirrel had entered in the past. So now it's "NO VACANCY" for squirrels looking for a free place to stay.

We built a frame out of wood secured by metal corner L brackets and then covered it with a metal screen. The final product was then jammed into the opening of the vent area.

Not a bad job, if I say so myself! Thanks Ed! :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deportation or Relocation?

POE (Point of Entry)

The vent on the other side of the house

Recently, we had a visitor who decided to make a home in our attic.

We could hear him walking around in the attic. At first, he would stay directly over our bedroom area. Then he got braver and moved further because I could hear him walking around over one of the other bedrooms.

No matter what I did to try to scare him off, he stayed.

I'm in no condition to go up into the attic. Besides, we had blown in a lot of insulation in there just a few years back. I didn't want to deal with that mess. Besides, I didn't know what the visitor was... it could have been anything. Ghosts? Nah... Animal(s)? Most likely.

I called several animal control companies and the cost was pretty high to get them to remove an animal. There's an initial cost to come out to inspect and set a trap... outside. None of the companies seemed to want to set the trap inside! Then there's another fee to remove the animal once it's in the outside trap. We'd have to monitor the trap daily and then call to get the company to come out to remove the animal.

I thought long and hard about whether to hire one of these companies to come out to set a trap... but in the end, I could not get myself to pay so much money to take out a single animal. My gut feeling was that it was a squirrel. The opening by our attic fans is only large enough for something the size of a squirrel or smaller could get into.

Well, I had trapped several squirrels in the past who had gotten into our eves by chewing through our roof tiles and the old plywood. The roof was old and it needed a full tear off and replacement which we did less than two years ago. We saw the damage those animals did too. Luckily, it didn't go into the attic itself. But this new intruder got into the attic. Most likely, he crawled in through the attic fan area of our home, on the side of our bedroom. The other side, looks like it's totally sealed off as you can see in the photo above, but the one near the bedroom doesn't seem to have anything covering it. So on Friday, my brother-in-law and I are going to seal that opening up.

I set the trap on the ground near the attic fan area, and in two days, I had a squirrel. I baited this squirrel and the ones in the past with peanut butter. If you ever need to bait a squirrel use peanut butter. Works great!

Once he was inside and stepped on the trap release, the door closes behind him and he's trapped. It's the most humane way to do it. Each of the squirrels I've trapped have been relocated (or deported if you want to look at it that way) into the forest preserves a couple of miles from my home. Once you open up the trap door, they usually run to the nearest tree. This one was no different. I should have taken a photo of the trapped squirrel, but I was too anxious to get him out of the trap and totally forgot to take a photo of him. Sorry!

Afterwards, I had to wonder if I caught the right animal because the trap was set on the ground, not 14 to 15 feet above ground, where the attic fan is located. After several days of listening, I don't hear the sounds of anything walking around up in the attic, so I'm pretty sure we got the right culprit.

Now after we seal off the fan opening on Friday, if I hear any more walking around up in the attic, we'll have to call Ghostbusters, because I don't know how to catch one of those...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Fairlanes Rock Gino's East

The Fairlanes took Gino's East - Lake Zurich by storm, rocking out tunes from the 50's through the 80's.

The group has an obvious following as witnessed by the numerous fans who turned out to hear them play. Not only did Gino's East have new patrons who may not have heard them play before, but an entire group of Fairlane fanatics were there as well. Obviously, there must be something to their performances that command that kind of dedication!

Also interesting is the fact that their drummer is a woman! Not often do you see or hear that, and drummer Gail Allen did not fail to lay down a solid backbeat for the rest of the band to play with. Keyboardist Dan Boulos, Guitarist Greg Nashan, Bassist Sam Mulvey and vocalist Jim Fletcher easily filled in the rest of the sound and together, they covered tune after tune of memorable music.

This group plays a lot... so get out there and check them out! (Be sure to click on each photo for a closer look!)

Friday, March 20, 2009


Some friends and I were discussing Etch-A-Sketch recently. I thought it would be funny to show up to a wedding one day without my camera and just bring an Etch-A-Sketch and announce, "I'm ready to do your pictures!" I wonder how well that would go over... No? How about just showing up with a cell phone in hand and saying the same thing? Better?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Best Report Card in Elementary School

This is my second grade report card. While you may wonder why someone who got so many "E" marks would be proud, consider that the Chicago Public School system (at least back then) didn't use the ABCDF system. Instead, they used the EGFU system. This means, Excellent, Good, Fair and Unsatisfactory. (Math and Reading also have grade levels which use an A through I rating... it's easy to confuse that with the grade, however. I think they should have come up with a different lettering scheme to differentiate it more.)

After second grade, I was "double promoted" into fourth grade. I skipped third grade.

I asked a number of my former classmates who had double promoted with me what they thought about being double promoted. Looking back, was it a good idea? It seems only I felt it was. Everyone else didn't.

Skipping third grade put all of us at a disadvantage both academically and also socially. A lot of foundational material in subjects like math and science is covered in third grade. And, being one year younger than everyone else, socially we may not have been ready as well. But for me, I adapted to the situation around the fifth grade. I did struggle in the fourth grade though. My grades dropped and for that I wasn't happy. But by the fifth grade, I think I had caught up. Socially, where others did not feel they fit in, I was ok with it. I didn't mind being a year younger than the other people in my classes, and quite frankly, most never knew either.

Would I do it again if I were given the chance? Yes! All of the others (so far) have said no. Would I allow my own daughter to do it if she had the chance? No. Double standard? Maybe. Although I was ok with it, that doesn't mean everyone would be. Why take the chance? (Be sure to click on the image to get a closer look.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

So Why Do Photos Cost So Much?

Look at the post I did below on Pro Shots versus Snap Shots.

If I were to sell the photo below, perhaps I might ask for $20 for an 8x10. Or maybe I'd ask for $50. Or $100. There is no set standard for selling a photograph.

So why do photos cost so much?

Well, consider this:

1. The equipment used to take that photo cost a lot of money. It was done with pro quality gear.
2. Training. I've had years of training which cost a lot of money. College classes, seminars, etc.
3. Experience. It took years of taking photos to know how to compose and expose properly.
4. Printing. Pro printing isn't necessarily all that cheap. Doing it at a drug store might be though, but the quality isn't always there.
5. Parking, gas, entrance fees. Sometimes this plays a factor in even getting the shot.
6. Access. Sometimes you need a pro photographer's credentials even to get the shot.
7. Time. Time is money and sometimes you have to wait around just to take the photo.
8. Advertising. Can't sell anything if nobody knows you are trying to sell it.
9. Other vendors. At times a stylist, hair dresser, or make up artist might be needed. $$
10. Other Overhead. Pros often have studios or offices that require rent. That is expensive.
11. Errors and Omissions Insurance. Costly, but protects the clients.
12. General Liability Insurance. Protects the pro, but also costs money.

These are just some factors as to why photos cost what they do. It's sometimes more than you might think. If you think, "It's just a picture! Why does it cost so much?" Now you know.

Can A Pro Shoot A Simple Snapshot?

St. Louis Science Center

Can a pro photographer shoot a simple snapshot? Sure! To me, this is a simple snapshot. But to others, this is a pro shot.

I suppose you can say that because the image is properly exposed and the composition is pleasing, there had to be some kind of thought made before the shot was taken. So does that qualify this as a simple snapshot?

Some people believe a snapshot is simply that... a quick snap of the shutter release. No thinking, no nothing. What typically is used for snapshots is a "point and shoot" camera... you know, the ones you can put in your shirt pocket. But what about this shot? It was taken with a Fuji S5 Pro digital Single Lens Reflex camera with a Tamron 17-50 mm f 2.8 lens. The camera was "set up" to optimize for ambient light photography... auto white balance, auto ISO, aperture priority exposure, fast camera lens.

So is this truly a snapshot?

With a point and shoot camera, most likely the built-in flash would have been used for a shot like this. That would have made the shot look totally different. A bright light in the front would have lit the kids in the foreground just fine, but the background would have been totally darkened. With this shot, the lighting is even throughout because the existing ambient light was relied upon. It looks natural and it looks basically like what the true scene was in real life.

So is this truly a snapshot?

To me, this is a snapshot. I shot it fast. I didn't think much about it. I didn't spend more than perhaps 3 seconds to stop, aim and fire. While you may argue that I was equipped with a camera with more capabilities than the typical person might have with him for a vacation shot, it's still a snapshot... to me.

If this is a snapshot, then what would this shot have looked like if it were a "pro shot?" Well, perhaps I would have hired professional models. Then maybe I would have positioned them in the photo so that each person had a specific reason to be there. Maybe I would have played with changing the lighting by adding additional lights or reflectors so that the kids in the front would not be so dark in the photo. And maybe I would have thought more about the composition.

With all that effort to take a shot, I'd consider that a pro shot.

This is a snapshot... to me at least. But it's not a bad snapshot at all, for 3 seconds worth of effort. It took me a lot longer to write this post than it did to take the shot. (Click on the photo to get a closer look.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Have I Been Up To Lately?

Since finding my former classmates on Facebook, I've been reminiscing about all the fun times we had growing up. It almost seems like we never were apart, but it's been something like 38 years!

I am excited at the thought of seeing them all again. We plan to do some kind of reunion soon.

While some of us had fuzzy memories, others filled them in for us and the memories came back. Still others had great memories and even remembered names of other classmates. Lots of stories have been told already and some even were a bit shocking.

Still the jokester, I could not help but insult each and every one of them. Luckily, they are all taking it well. No death threats against me... yet. :)

Recently, I had a problem with my knee and so I'm now resting and hanging out at the computer. With all that "free time" sitting around, I could not help but write a bunch of things on the Facebook site. Hopefully, none of it will come back to haunt me in the future because as we all know, things said in cyberspace stays there forever. And photos posted remain as well.

So that's what's been happening lately. Sorry, no photos to post today. When my knee feels better, I'll be sure to make up for that and post a bunch of things for everyone to see.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Friends from Grade School Contact Me!

Grover Cleveland Elementary School

Yesterday, I was contacted by two of my past friends from grade school! I have not seen these two old friends in something like 37 or 38 years! Being back in contact with them brought back so many memories.

You see, these two dear old friends and I had gone through most of our grade school classes together. We all "double promoted" from 2nd grade straight to the 4th grade. Essentially, we skipped 3rd grade and went directly to 4th. And yet another friend of mine (who also has been in contact with these two friends and me) skipped not only 3rd grade, but also 7th grade as well.

It seems the internet does indeed put old friends together again. I can honestly say that without the internet, I cannot think of another way to easily get back in contact with people. Technology is amazing!

Both of my old friends are people who attended Grover Cleveland Elementary School in Chicago. We grew up together and experienced the same things that only childhood schoolmates can. Just talking over the old times, I am remembering more and more about being at the age of 5 to 11. It's surprising how much I still remember from that time period. But my other friend Randy, has an even better memory... for names! Whereas I could remember the kids from my old class photos, he remembers their names too!

I hope that one day we can all get together again. One of my friends actually lives in the same suburb as me! We just have to get together one day!

I'm very glad to be back in contact with them. Who knows, in time, perhaps we can locate our other classmates as well. (Edit note: I was just in contact with yet another friend this morning! That's three in the course of less than 24 hours!)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Chicago Chinatown 5K Run - July 11, 2009

This girl has the right idea.
This is the only way that I could do a 5K run too..
Being pushed in a stroller!

Don't leave after the main race. The kids have one of their own!
(Photos from the July 11, 2009 Chinatown 5k Run are now on-line at

It's been a couple of years since the last Chicago Chinatown 5K Run was held. I had the opportunity to photograph one in 2005. Today, I got an email announcing that this race will once again be held in 2009! Besides the big race for grown-ups, they also hold a quarter-mile Youth Run for ages 6 to 10.

This year's prizes include a Ninendo Wii and Apple iPod Nano.

I've been to two of these races in the past. No, I didn't run... but I did help out. It's fun to see everyone getting ready before the race and then standing right up in the front to take photos of the runners at the starting line. Then, as the race progresses, it's just a short wait before we see the first runners coming in to the finish line. Wow! These guys are fast!

If you've ever wanted to try a race, this is a good one to do. It's 5K, so it is relatively quick. As a spectator, you aren't waiting around a long time for the runners to return either. And the best part? Well... hey, it's Chinatown! After the race, think about all the great restaurants and shops you can go to afterwards! :)

Click here to see the details of the upcoming race! Photographers... how about meeting in Chinatown to do a photojournalistic coverage of the event? Who's up for it? Currently, I'm not booked for a wedding that date. So there's a good chance I could be there this year!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Tutoring Sessions Going Strong

I never realized that so many people wanted help with their photography until I put a small ad on Craigslist to see if anyone wanted my help.

I don't charge a lot for this help... and it seems that my students have all benefited from this little bit of help. I had a couple of my students tell me that they had learned more in one 3 hour session with me than some full day seminars they attended. I think that's because I concentrate on areas that my students need the most help. And, they are getting individualized attention.

Too often today, many people who buy a digital camera want to become a professional photographer. You wouldn't believe how many people come up to me and say, "I just bought a new digital camera and I'd like to get some business taking photos for people!" Unfortunately, I've seen some of the photos that these "wanna-bees" produce and they are far from professional. That's not to say they can't be improved. A little training goes a long way.

Still, some others who buy a new D-SLR don't want to be a pro, they just want to be able to take good photos for vacation or other family events. That's great! I'm always glad to help someone try to take better photos.

If you or someone you know could benefit from some training, email me or call me. I'd be happy to see if I can help. While most of my students have preferred to get one-on-one training, I'd like to see if some others might want to save a few dollars and try a classroom training of perhaps 4 or 5 people instead. Spread the word!